Distribution patterns of specific fucose-containing antigens having X determinant (Gal beta 1----4[Fuc alpha 1----3]GlcNAc) as well as the di- or trimeric X determinants (Gal beta 1----4[Fuc alpha 1----3]GlcNAc beta 1----3Gal beta 1----4[Fuc alpha 1----3]-GlcNAc) in the developing human embryo and fetus and in human cancer have been examined using immunohistological techniques. Tissue sections were stained with monoclonal antibody FH3, which defines X determinant, and with monoclonal antibody FH4, which defines di- or trimeric X determinant. The following general trends in the expression of the antigens defined by FH3 and FH4 have been observed: (a) A well-organized, orderly appearance and disappearance of the antigens was observed during the histogenesis of various epithelia of gastrointestinal and other organs. The developmental stage exhibiting the maximum antigen expression is different for each organ. (b) The X determinant defined by FH3 was expressed approximately 2 wk earlier than the di- or trimeric X determinant defined by FH4, and the antigen defined by FH4 regressed more rapidly and more completely than the X determinant defined by FH3 on further development of epithelial tissue. Thus, expression of the FH4 antigen is highly limited to specific types of cells in newborn and adult epithelial tissues. (c) The antigen defined by FH4 was strongly expressed in the majority of tubular and papillary adenocarcinoma of stomach, adenocarcinoma of colon, and infiltrating ductal carcinoma of breast and its metastatic lesions. No antigen was found in poorly differentiated stomach adenocarcinoma, squamous lung carcinoma, and many other types of tumors from ovary, testis, prostate, skin, and muscle. The presence of the antigen defined by FH4 is therefore limited to carcinoma of the stomach, colon, and breast and can be regarded as a retrograde expression of the antigen to a certain stage of fetal development in which expression of this antigen was maximal.

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